MADRID – Spaniards seeking respite from the gloom of the pandemic turn their attention Wednesday to a rite that for more than two centuries has marked the start of the holiday season: the country’s exceptional Christmas lottery, known as the name of “El Gordo” or “” The big one.
The raffle, held annually since 1812, will bring in a total of 2.4 billion euros ($ 2.7 billion) in prizes this year, or 70% of the proceeds from ticket sales.
The first prize winner receives 400,000 euros ($ 450,000) or some 328,000 euros after tax.
People can queue for hours in the days leading up to the lottery to snatch their 20 euro tickets from the most popular vendors.
Some buy them for themselves or as gifts for others. Co-workers, relatives or friends also pool money to buy them, with the aim of sharing the prices.
Other lotteries have larger individual prizes, but the Spanish Christmas Lottery, held annually on December 22, is ranked as the richest in the world for the total amount of prizes involved.
Despite a growing number of coronavirus cases – Spain marked its pandemic record for new infections on Tuesday, with nearly 50,000 reported in one day – audiences return to the Teatro Real opera house in Madrid after the year’s break last.
In keeping with tradition, the children of San Ildefonso School in Madrid call out the winning numbers, followed by jubilant street and bar scenes where the winners celebrate with uncorked bottles of sparkling wine.
The lottery is run by the state and supports several charitable efforts.
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